Chamber discusses economy

Published 8:39 am Wednesday, October 4, 2017

A guest speaker during the Lunenburg County Chamber of Commerce meeting Thursday discussed ways to increase population and solve economic issues facing Lunenburg and the Heart of Virginia.

Randy Lail, vice chairman of the Virginia Go program, who lives in Lunenburg, spoke during the meeting regarding the program’s plans to unite various localities and generate ideas to create higher-paying and stable jobs and provide greater workforce training in addition to solving issues that could prevent new businesses from locating in the area.

Lail said during the meeting that the program’s intent was to not pay for a business to come to the area, but to create an environment that could potentially attract new businesses and solve issues from input and direction of each locality in the region.

“We want to provide some real leadership,” Lail said during the meeting. “And I think

that is what the business community wants. We’re going to pick a few specific items where we’re actually going to get in front of and lead as a council to try to push some of these things along.”

Virginia Go is comprised of businesspeople across the state in regions that are allocated funds by the state to generate programs and ideas to sustain workers and create an environment that would welcome potential businesses looking for a headquarters.

Lail said Virginia Go’s Region 3, which includes Lunenburg, Buckingham, Nottoway, Charlotte and Cumberland counties, have sent proposals for several ideas that, if approved, could receive a grant from the state.

He noted the importance of working together among counties in creating change.

“There has to be collaboration,” Lail said. “If somebody puts in a project, it’s got to be at least two localities participating in that project — and the more the better.”

Lail, the former president of the former Peebles, hoped to find ways to establish jobs that would keep skilled workers in town instead of traveling to larger cities, often an hour or more away.

Lail is the chairman of the board for the Mid-Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation and chairman of Benchmark Community Bank.

He noted bringing stronger internet connection to the region as chair of the Mid Atlantic Broadband Communities Corporation.

Lail said in addition to skill training, members of the program have discussed soft-skill training for potential employees, which include organization, punctuality and decorum in the work force.

Lail said Region 3 faces a series of challenges as it is the largest geographical region in Virginia, but has the lowest population.

He also cited statistics included in the program’s growth and diversification plan regarding numerous health and economical issues facing the region, citing Lunenburg was in the red for many of the categories.

“That sounds bad, and it is bad,” Lail said. “But the opportunity is great. Therefore, anything we do to make it better is going to make an impact.”

While Lail said the program does not yet have solutions to many of the aspects it has discussed, he hopes the meetings, and having the skills and input of Virginia Go members across several counties, that the solutions the program generates will bring needed change to the county.

“I don’t think you can look at this group and say, ‘This is another government organization that’s going to give out money.’ That’s not what we’re going to be about,” Lail said about the members of the regional council. “We have some good people on this list — some good minds.”

Chamber Vice-President Mike Hankins said a key solution for the county would be to attract young employees and create higher-paying jobs for high school and college graduates. He noted he worked along the East Coast, and came to Kenbridge where he eventually retired.

“What we have to do is recruit people who are the exact opposite polar opposite from me,” Hankins said. “We’re not looking for people who want to retire here. We want to look for people and ways to get them here when they come out of from high school and college and get them to stay here.”